The day after 200 Riverside neighbors came out to protest, developer Rob Snyder said he has scrapped his plan for a 60-unit housing complex for low-income seniors there.
“I’m done. I’m not doing anything,” Snyder said Thursday, adding he didn’t want to make people angry. “Life’s too short. ... I want everybody to be happy, and I’ll find another project somewhere else to do.”
Snyder owns about 600 rental units in Wichita.
Snyder and his partner in the Riverside development, former Mennonite Housing director Andy Bias, had hoped to obtain zoning changes and city support for housing credits to build the three-story complex. Eighty percent of the apartments would have been rent-controlled to be affordable to low-income seniors, starting at about $300 a month for a one-bedroom apartment.
But the developers met with a buzzsaw of opposition from Riverside residents who had organized around social media and e-mail chains against the project at 1320 N. Bitting.
They turned out in force for a district advisory board meeting Wednesday where dozens aired complaints about the project, which they said would not fit in with the surrounding neighborhood of older homes.
Complaints included the building’s modern design, height, density, possible impact from traffic and trash, potential damage to the environment and old-growth trees and the use of city-owned property for a walkway.
“In my opinion, this is an albatross,” said neighbor Michael Wilson. “(It) does nothing to enhance Riverside.”
“Very likely a huge amount of garbage is going to wind up in the river,” said Kirsten Wixson.
It took more than an hour to get through all the speakers at two minutes apiece. Snyder said he was ready to scrap the projecct after the first 10 minutes of the meeting, but Bias convinced him to give the neighbors the chance to say their piece out of respect.
“They are a very, very, very tight-knit community that has the best interest of the community,” he said. “I might not agree what I think is best or they think is best, but they obviously are very well-intentioned.”
Snyder said he’s 60 years old and spending a lot of time traveling to care for his ailing mother in New York.
“You kind of put things in perspective,” he said. “Life’s too short, and I have bigger things on my plate and in my mind (and) I just don’t want to fight.”
The proposed project site now has a house, a garage and five mobile homes on it.
Snyder said the house, garage and one mobile home are rented. He said he plans to rent out the remaining mobile homes.
“Now that I know I’m not going to proceed, I’ll just clean it up and keep it the way it is,” he said. “It’s been that way for 30 years or something like that.”
District advisory board meetings are generally very lightly attended, and the 200 people who turned out Thursday night is believed to be a record crowd.
“I felt like a superstar,” Snyder joked. “I didn’t think I could be that popular.”